Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Perceptions of morality influence economic decisions, brain responses to rewards

17.10.2005


How we perceive another’s moral character can influence the nature of our economic decisions and the neural mechanisms underlying these choices, according to a new study by researchers at New York and Cornell universities. The findings, which appear in the latest issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience, run counter to the assumptions favored by many economists that individuals behave opportunistically.



The study’s researchers were Mauricio Delgado, a post-doctoral research fellow at NYU, Robert Frank, an economics professor at Cornell’s Johnson School of Management, and Elizabeth A. Phelps, a professor of psychology and neural science at NYU.

In conducting the study, researchers examined brain responses while participants performed a "trust game" involving two-person interactions in which mutually beneficial outcomes are more likely if partners are trustworthy and perceive one another as such. Participants could either keep $1 on a given trial or transfer it to a partner, in which case the partner would receive $3. The partner could either keep the entire $3 or share half of it back. It was thus advantageous to transfer money to a partner who was expected to share, but disadvantageous to transfer money to one not expected to share.


Participants were instructed that they would be playing with three fictional partners and were given detailed descriptions of each partner’s life events indicating praiseworthy, neutral, or suspect moral character. Participants were also told that their fictional partners’ responses would not necessarily be consistent with the descriptions given. In fact, each of the three fictional partners--"good," "bad," and "neutral"--was programmed to share half the time and keep half the time.

Despite having been warned that the fictional partners’ behavior might not match their descriptions, participants were initially much more willing to transfer money to good partners, and much less willing to transfer money to bad partners. But after having completed multiple trials with each type of partner, participants reported correctly that the different partners seemed to be sharing at about the same rate. Strikingly, however, participants continued to be more likely to trust good partners and less likely to trust bad ones, even though they indicated explicit knowledge that the response patterns for the different types were the same.

In mapping participants’ underlying neural processes, the researchers discovered activation in the brain’s striatum--more specifically, a structure called the caudate nucleus--which had previously been linked to reward processing. The brain responses matched the patterns traditionally seen during trial and error reward learning (i.e., differential responses between positive and negative feedback) only when participants were interacting with the neutral partner. In contrast, activation was either weak or absent when subjects were playing with good or bad partners.

"It was as if the influence of participants’ prior impressions served to disrupt some of their normal feedback learning mechanisms and consequently affected their ability to adapt choices," explained Delgado.

The study’s findings run counter to the self-interest model in economics.

"The self-interest model predicts that people should be skeptical of everyone," Frank said. "Yet people seem reluctant to adopt that posture toward someone described as trustworthy, even when they know the description is fictional."

According to Phelps, these findings suggest that "second-hand accounts of moral character can override the impact of first-hand experience of trustworthiness as expressed in both behavioral choices and the underlying neural mechanisms"

James Devitt | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nyu.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Real-time feedback helps save energy and water
08.02.2017 | Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg

nachricht The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Start codons in DNA may be more numerous than previously thought

21.02.2017 | Life Sciences

An alternative to opioids? Compound from marine snail is potent pain reliever

21.02.2017 | Life Sciences

Warming ponds could accelerate climate change

21.02.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>